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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make NBC Sports debut with Super Bowl, Olympics coverage

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Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s 15-time most popular driver, will make his debut as a member of the NBC family with the network’s coverage of next month’s Super Bowl and the winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Earnhardt, who just retired after 18 full-time seasons in the Cup Series, will be part of NBC’s pre-game coverage of the Feb. 4 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

While there, Earnhardt will take part in outdoor events and activities taking place in city leading up to kickoff.

Earnhardt will then travel to PyeongChang, where he will explore the culture, people, and traditions in South Korea and experience the Olympics first hand. Earnhardt will visit the speed skating venue at Gangneung Ice Arena, and through the lens of a racer will view the speed, close contact, and tight turns on the speed skating oval.

Following a recent invite on social media from the U.S. bobsled team, Earnhardt will also travel to the Alpensia Sliding Center where he will get to ride in an Olympic bobsled.

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games begin Feb. 8.

“I’m excited to get to work with my new NBC family,” Earnhardt said in a press release. “Beginning with two huge events like the Super Bowl and Olympics, right out of the gate, should be quite the introduction. I’m looking forward to raising the profile of NASCAR, and all that we’re going to be doing during the 2018 season.”

Earnhardt will be an analyst on NBC’s coverage of the NASCAR season. The NBC portion of the Cup schedule begins July 1 at Chicagoland Speedway on NBCSN.

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Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas named honorary starter for Cup championship race

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Homestead-Miami Speedway has named Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas the honorary starter for the Cup Series’ championship race.

Douglas, 21, will wave the green flag for the Ford EcoBoost 400 on Nov. 19 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

A native of Newport News, Virginia, Douglas won gold medals in the 2012 and 2016 summer Olympics.

At the London 2012 Summer Olympics, the she won the team gold as a member of the “Fierce Five,” and also claimed the individual all-around gold. She won the team gold again in 2016.

“I’m so excited to wave the green flag for the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway,” said Douglas in a press release. “I’ve seen plenty of championships, and the NASCAR championship is definitely going to be one epic event. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Douglas is also the author of “Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith” and “Raising the Bar.”

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Xfinity, Team USA on Matt Kenseth’s car at Texas Motor Speedway

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Matt Kenseth will have a special Xfinity, Team USA paint scheme this weekend in the Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

In collaboration between Comcast and the United States Olympic Committee, the paint scheme’s appearance on track at Texas comes as the 100-day countdown begins for the 2018 Winter Olympics in‎ Pyeongchang‎, South Korea.

The games will open Feb. 9. and close Feb. 25 and will air on the NBC family of networks.

There are three races left for Kenseth in his tenure with Joe Gibbs racing and possibly his Cup career.

The 45-year-old driver is still looking for his first win of the year. He has not visited victory lane since a 2016 playoff race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kenseth also will be seeking his third Cup win at Texas. He earned his first two in 2002 and 2011.

In the April race, the No. 20 Toyota started eighth and finished 16th. Kenseth hasn’t earned a top five at Texas since the fall 2013 race.

“Looking back to our first race at Texas this year, it seems like the first race after a repave is always the most difficult race because you have so many notes that all of a sudden don’t apply anymore,” crew chief Jason Ratcliff said in a press release. “You definitely learn a lot and start with a clean slate the first time you have a race weekend on fresh pavement. For us, I think that we’ll be a lot better this time around since we didn’t have the results we wanted at Texas back in April, but we learned a lot that race weekend. … Turns 1 and 2 are so much flatter now than it is in Turns 3 and 4, so before the track was somewhat symmetrical in both ends, but now, it’s not at all.”

Kenseth’s best finish on a 1.5-mile track this season is third at Atlanta. He finished fourth in the Coke 600.

Kenseth was eliminated from the playoffs after the second round. He was ruled out of the elimination race at Kansas for his team sending too many crew members over the wall to repair his car.

Since the playoffs began, his best result is third at New Hampshire in the opening round.